Rabbitville. Flea Town. These are just a couple of the names the Downtown San Diego area now known as Gaslamp Quarter was called since founded in 1850. After decades of being overrun by gambling halls, bordellos, and saloons (three of which were run by Wyatt Earp), the city finally pledged in 1974 to turn the district around. Now, the Gaslamp Quarter thrives as one of San Diego’s primary tourist destinations, touting boutiques, rooftop bars, high-end restaurants, and trendy basement nightclubs.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the bustle of San Diego’s former red light district is on par with the flurry of people that congregate in Gastown, Vancouver or on Main Street in Santa Monica, California. The crowd is a mix of families, couples, and groups of guys and girls looking to get noticed.
For those who seek a break from the throng, there are several spots to duck into near Gaslamp’s borders. One such spot in the north end of the district is Analog Bar. This restaurant and bar that looks like the inside of a wood-paneled 1970s recording studio has great early evening and late night happy hour specials. Favorites off of the menu are the Pulled Pork Totchos ($10), tater tots done up nacho style; the popcorn brussel sprouts ($6); and any one of their “lil burgers” (three for $10).
Located on the south end of Gaslamp Quarter is La Puerta, a hip, Mexican food restaurant and bar. On one hand, it’s a place to savor the delights of a quality Añejo tequila out of a snifter. On the other hand, it’s a place to try signature margaritas like the “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “mexperience libations” such as a frozen mojito called “Mr. Mojo Risin’.” Recommended tries off of their food menu include the Guacamole ($8), Tostaditas ($8) and the 3 Street Tacos plate ($9) which I have made up of the Ranchero Shrimp taco, the Al Pastor taco, and the Cochinita taco. If you aren’t that hungry, ask for the chips and salsa since they’re complimentary but won’t be served unless you ask. La Puerta also offers a Sunday brunch, happy hour specials and daily specials you’ll want to take check out.
With restaurants like these, there’s no doubt that the city achieved its goal of revitalizing the Gaslamp Quarter. Come see for yourself.
Photography by: Christine Pasalo